The first Reservists in the British Army to actually engage with the enemy in World War One did so on Halloween in 1914. They were the men of the London Scottish Regiment, who travelled the final distance to the front line in red London buses, similar to the ones that many of them had used to go to work in civilian occupations right up to the declaration of war a few months earlier.
On 31 October, they took their place in the line at Messines, near Ypres. Dressed in their iconic Hodden Grey kilts, they fought hard through the night to hold the British position. Almost immediately, their rifles started to fail. The magazine springs were defective and proved to have insufficient strength to feed the rounds into the breach. In addition, the calibre of the rounds supplied was a bad fit. It was a cruel failure of logistics to face these fresh, brave and enthusiastic volunteers and its impact was colossal.
But, after fighting relentlessly through the night, they held the line. However, the cost in casualties was great. Nearly 400 of the battalion's strength had been lost. It was a terrific cost and an enormous shock to the families waiting for news in London and Scotland. In commemoration of this heroic stand, the London Scottish meets every year for a dinner, at which all ranks take part.